WASHINGTON (AP) - Once again, the Washington Nationals were on the verge winning a close game and let it slip away.
Left-handed reliever Sean Burnett entered in the seventh inning to protect a 4-3 lead with three left-handed hitters coming up for the Philadelphia Phillies. Burnett gave up a walk, single and sacrifice fly, giving up the winning runs in Philadelphia's 5-4 win Monday.
The Nationals have now lost eight of nine - including three straight - with five of the losses by one run and another by two runs.
``It seems like we have a lot of these games lately,' Washington first baseman Michael Morse said. ``We're playing good baseball and that's the tough part. Our starting pitchers are keeping us in the game, our bats came around today and we got the loss.'
Washington lost despite solo home runs by Morse, Danny Espinosa and Laynce Nix off Phillies starter Roy Halladay (7-3), the first time this season he's given up multiple homers in a game. Halladay had allowed a total of two home runs in his first 11 starts.
Halladay got help from Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, who hit back-to-back homers in the fourth and each drove in a run in Philadelphia's seventh-inning rally.
Washington starter Livan Hernandez allowed four runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out four. He left with a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning after allowing a one-out single to Placido Polanco. With lefties Chase Utley, Howard and Ibanez coming up, Washington manager Jim Riggleman turned to Burnett.
Burnett walked Utley and Howard followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game. Ibanez's sacrifice fly scored Utley with the go-ahead run.
``It's hard to walk away from this one,' Burnett said. ``Livo threw a good game. Our offense put up four on Halladay, that's not going to happen too much. We need a win, and we had it won if I can execute and get the lefties out I'm supposed to get.'
The Nationals started well, taking a 2-0 lead in the second. Morse led off the inning with his seventh home run of the season. It also extended Morse's hitting streak to eight games, the longest by any National this season. Hernandez drove in the second run on a squeeze bunt.
The Phillies went out in front with a three-run fourth inning. Howard started it off with a blast over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center, his 12th of the season. Ibanez followed with a homer into the Nationals' right field bullpen for Philadelphia's first back-to-back home runs this year.
The Phillies kept the rally going with three straight hits, including an RBI single by Domonic Brown. Jimmy Rollins ended the inning with a fly to the right-field warning track, stranding runners on the corners.
Espinosa tied the game at 3 with a two-out home run into the right field seats in the fifth, and Washington took a 4-3 lead on Nix's shot in the sixth inning.
``I thought we hit (Halladay) well,' Espinosa said. ``I thought we played a good ballgame, threw well, everything. I thought it was a good performance by us. They had some hits, they found the right holes. It's an unfortunate loss.'
Halladay has won 10 straight starts against the Nationals and Expos franchise, is 11-1 against the Nationals and Expos franchise since losing June 28, 2002, in Montreal.
The Nationals did have one of the best offensive games any team has had against Halladay this season. In addition to the homers, it was only the second time any team has scored more than three runs against the Phillies' ace.
``There's no moral victories, but you hope it seeps into people that we can do this,' Riggleman said. ``We can hit, we know we can hit. We have a history of hitting. Each individual feels like you're gonna hit and when you do it against a Cy Young guy then certainly it should reinforce it.'
Espinosa, however, didn't take any consolation from the performance.
``The whole team can play the best game of its life and still lose,' Espinosa said. ``A loss is a loss and it doesn't feel any better.'
NOTES: Nationals SS Ian Desmond was held out of the starting lineup to rest, although he entered as part of a double switch in the seventh inning. Washington manager Jim Riggleman said Desmond has some ``aches and pains.' ... Both teams wore stars-and-stripes themed caps for the Memorial Day holiday. ``If you're going to play on Memorial Day, I can't imagine anyplace else to play a baseball game than Washington, D.C.,' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ``That's pretty good.'
The Associated Press News Service
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